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Education

The End of College? Not So Fast 13

Posted by Soulskill
from the beer-companies-and-loan-companies-won't-allow-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The advent of MOOCs, Khan Academy, and the hundreds of other learning sites that have popped up caused many people to predict the decline of expensive, four-year universities. But Donald Heller writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education that most of the people making these claims don't have a good understanding of how actual students are interacting with online classes. He points out that it's a lot easier for a 40-year-old who's in a stable life position, and who has already experienced college-level education to work through an MOOC with ease. But things change when you're asking 18- to 20-year-olds to give up the structure and built-in motivation of a physical university to instead sit at their computer for hours at a time. (The extremely low pass rate for free online courses provides some evidence for this.) Heller also warns that prematurely hailing MOOCs as a replacement for colleges will only encourage governments and organizations to stop investing in institutions of higher learning, which could have dire consequences for education worldwide.
Encryption

NSA Worried About Recruitment, Post-Snowden 79

Posted by Soulskill
from the should-have-thought-of-that-before-being-jerks dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The NSA employs tens of thousands of people, and they're constantly recruiting more. They're looking for 1,600 new workers this year alone. Now that their reputation has taken a major hit with the revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden, they aren't sure they'll be able to meet that goal. Not only that, but the NSA has to compete with other companies, and they Snowden leaks made many of them more competitive: "Ever since the Snowden leaks, cybersecurity has been hot in Silicon Valley. In part that's because the industry no longer trusts the government as much as it once did. Companies want to develop their own security, and they're willing to pay top dollar to get the same people the NSA is trying to recruit." If academia's relationship with the NSA continues to cool, the agency could find itself struggling within a few years.
Star Wars Prequels

Why More 'Star Wars' Actors Don't Become Stars 96

Posted by Soulskill
from the thanks-george dept.
HughPickens.com writes: When you become an actor, landing a role in a movie as big as Star Wars may seem like a dream come true. But Tatiana Siegel and Borys Kit report at The Hollywood Reporter that six movies in, the Star Wars franchise has only spawned one megastar: Harrison Ford, unusual for a series of this magnitude. Neither Ewan McGregor nor Liam Neeson was helped by the franchise and the list of acting careers that never took off is even longer, from original stars Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher to Jake Lloyd (young Anakin Skywalker) and most notably Hayden Christensen, whose star was on the rise when he nabbed 2002's Attack of the Clones. Even Natalie Portman, who already had a hot career before Episodes I-III, admitted she struggled after the exposure. "Everyone thought I was a horrible actress," says Portman. "I was in the biggest-grossing movie of the decade, and no director wanted to work with me."

So what's the problem? "When you sign up for this, you're signing your life away, and you're keeping yourself from any other franchises out there," says an agent whose client is one of the stars of Episode VII. "They will not let you be in another franchise. They're going to be cranking out a new movie every year. These actors never get to read the script before signing on. They don't even know which [subsequent] one they are in. And then they become known for that role, and it's hard to see them in [another] kind of movie." Still, agents keep pursuing roles in the upcoming films even though newcomers can only command a meager $65,000 to $125,000 for Episode VII. "It secures all involved a place in film history," says agent Sarah Fargo, "and guarantees a huge global audience, enhancing an actor's marketability."
Sci-Fi

We're In a Golden Age of Star Trek Webseries Right Now 42

Posted by Soulskill
from the living-long-and-prospering dept.
New submitter DakotaSmith writes: io9 has an article explaining why We're Living In The Golden Age Of Star Trek Webseries Right Now. If you're a true geek, you probably already know about Star Trek Continues and Star Trek: Phase II. (If you're a true geek and you don't know about them, run — do not walk, run — to watch "Lolani." Your brain— and more importantly, your heart — will love you for the rest of your life.)

But there's more to it than that. A lot more. How about the years'-long wait for Act IV of Starship Exeter : "The Tressaurian Intersection"? Or Yorktown: "A Time to Heal" — an attempt to resurrect an aborted fan film from 1978 starring George Takei? For fans of old-school Star Trek (the ones who pre-date "Trekker" and wear "Trekkie" as a badge of honor), not since 1969 has there been a better time to watch Star Trek: The Original Series.

(Oh, and there's plenty content out there for you "Trekkers" and NextGen-era fans. It all varies in quality, but it doesn't take much effort to find them. This is truly a Golden Age. Recognize it and enjoy it while it lasts.)
Google

Google Unveils the Chromebit: an HDMI Chromebook Dongle 25

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-waiting-on-hardware-called-chromedome dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Today Google unveiled a new device: the Chromebit. It's a small compute stick that contains the Rockchip 3288 processor, 2GB RAM, and 16GB of storage — much like a low-end Chromebook. It connects to a TV or monitor through an HDMI port. (It also has a USB port for power and plugging in peripherals.) Google says the Chromebit is their solution for turning any display into a computer, and it will cost under $100. Google also announced a couple of new Chromebooks as well. Haier and Hisense models will cost $150, and an ASUS model with a rotating display will cost $250.
Nintendo

Mario 64 Remake Receives a DMCA Complaint From Nintendo 56

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-fun-allowed dept.
jones_supa writes: Well, we saw this one coming. Just a couple of days after computer science student Erik Roystan Ross released a free recreation of the first level of Nintendo's 1996 Super Mario 64, Nintendo filed a Digital Millennium Copyright Act complaint. It was sent to the content distribution network CloudFlare and the complaint asked to immediately disable public access to the page hosting the remade game. CloudFlare forwarded the complaint to the person hosting Ross' game, after which the hosting provider (a friend of Ross) had to take the game down. Nintendo also sent Ross takedown notices for his downloadable desktop versions of the Bob-Omb Battlefield. Nintendo is famously protective of its copyright, taking issue even with "Let's Play" videos posted on YouTube and threatening to shut down live-streamed Super Smash Bros tournaments."
Facebook

Report: Facebook Tracks Visitors Who Have Opted Out, Violating EU Law 20

Posted by Soulskill
from the hand-in-cookie-jar dept.
itwbennett writes: In a technical analysis (PDF) of Facebook's tracking practices, researchers found that Facebook tracks everyone who visits its site, including people who don't have an account, and even continues to track users and non-users who have opted out of targeted ads. The problem with these practices is that the cookies are placed without consent, which under EU law is only allowed if there is a strict necessity to do so. Facebook disputes the report: "We have explained in detail the inaccuracies in the earlier draft report (after it was published) directly to the Belgian DPA, who we understand commissioned it, and have offered to meet with them to explain why it is incorrect, but they have declined to meet or engage with us."
Medicine

Thousand-Year-Old Eye Salve Kills MRSA 63

Posted by Soulskill
from the even-when-you-run-out-of-ideas,-ideas-don't-run-out-on-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Scientists at the University of Nottingham used a recipe from an ancient medical text to successfully kill golden staph bacteria, also known as MRSA, the superbug commonly found in hospitals. Bald's Leechbook calls for leeks, garlic, brass, wine and other ingredients to create an eye salve for curing an infected eyelash. The salve has been found to be effective in killing the MRSA at least as well any modern remedy.
The Courts

SCOTUS: GPS Trackers Are a Form of Search and Seizure 85

Posted by Soulskill
from the may-the-fourth-amendment-be-with-you dept.
schwit1 writes: If the government puts a GPS tracker on you, your car, or any of your personal effects, it counts as a search—and is therefore protected by the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court clarified and affirmed that law on Monday, when it ruled on Torrey Dale Grady v. North Carolina (PDF), before sending the case back to that state's high court. The Court's short but unanimous opinion helps make sense of how the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure, interacts with the expanding technological powers of the U.S. government. "The only theory we discern [...] is that the State's system of nonconsensual satellite-based monitoring does not entail a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. That theory is inconsistent with this Court's precedents."
Microsoft

Microsoft Announces Surface 3 Tablet 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the resurfacing-their-portables dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Today Microsoft announced the latest device in their line of Windows tablets: the Surface 3. The tablet runs a full version of Windows (the troublesome "RT" line has been deprecated), and aims to compete with Apple's iPad. The Surface 3 has a 10.8" screen running at 1920x1280 (note the 3:2 ratio). It's 8.7mm thick and weighs 622 grams (1.27 lbs). They're somewhat vague about the battery life, but they say it will last up to 10 hours "based on video playback." They've also made it possible to charge the device with a standard micro-USB charger. The base device with 64GB storage, 2GB RAM, and Wi-Fi will cost $500, and it'll scale up with more storage, more ram, and 4G LTE connectivity. (It maxes out at 4GB RAM, so any heavy-duty gaming is probably out of the question.) The keyboard is still a separate $130 accessory as well.
Power

Massive Power Outage Paralyzes Turkey 44

Posted by Soulskill
from the taken-for-granted-until-it's-gone dept.
wiredmikey writes: A massive power outage caused chaos and shut down public transport across Turkey on Tuesday, with the government refusing to rule out that the electricity system had been the victim of an attack. The nationwide power cut, the worst in 15 years, began shortly after 10:30 am (0730 GMT) in Istanbul, the state-run Anatolia news agency quoted the Turkey Electricity Transmission Company (TEIAS) as saying. Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said the authorities were investigating whether the power outage was due to a technical failure or cyber-attack. "It is too early to say now if it is because of a technical reason, a manipulation, a faultplay, an operational mistake, or a cyber (attack). We are looking into it... We cannot say they are excluded possibilities."
Canada

Amazon Tests Delivery Drones At Secret Canada Site After US Frustration 183

Posted by Soulskill
from the building-the-national-dronehockey-league dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from The Guardian: Amazon is testing its drone delivery service at a secret site in Canada, following repeated warnings by the e-commerce giant that it would go outside the U.S. to bypass what it sees as the U.S. federal government's lethargic approach to the new technology. The largest internet retailer in the world is keeping the location of its new test site closely guarded. What can be revealed is that the company's formidable team of roboticists, software engineers, aeronautics experts and pioneers in remote sensing – including a former NASA astronaut and the designer of the wingtip of the Boeing 787 – are now operating in British Columbia. The end goal is to utilize what Amazon sees as a slice of virgin airspace – above 200ft, where most buildings end, and below 500ft, where general aviation begins. Into that aerial slice the company plans to pour highly autonomous drones of less than 55lbs, flying through corridors 10 miles or longer at 50mph and carrying payloads of up to 5lbs that account for 86% of all the company's packages.
Firefox

Firefox 37 Released 118

Posted by Soulskill
from the onward-and-upward dept.
Today Mozilla began rolling out Firefox version 37.0 to release channel users. This update mostly focuses on behind-the-scenes changes. Security improvements include opportunistic encryption where servers support it and improved protection against site impersonation. They also disabled insecure TLS version fallback and added a security panel within the developer tools. One of the things end users will see is the Heartbeat feedback collection system. It will pop up a small rating widget to a random selection of users every day. After a user rates Firefox, an "engagement" page may open in the background, with links to social media pages and a donation page. Here are the release notes and full changelist.
IT

Ask Slashdot: Dealing With User Resignation From an IT Perspective? 237

Posted by timothy
from the here-is-your-read-only-cardboard-box dept.
New submitter recaptcha writes Today one of my fellow workers has announced he has found another job and will be leaving our company in two weeks' time. This is all above board and there is no disgruntled employee scenario here; he is simply working through his notice period and finishing up some jobs. I have already set some fileserver folders to Read-Only for him and taken a backup of his mailbox in case he empties it on the last day. Which best practices do you follow that will prevent a resigning user from causing any damage (deliberately or not) in these last days of employment before his account is disabled?
Books

Book Review: Drush For Developers, 2nd Edition 27

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
Michael Ross writes As with any content management system, building a website using Drupal typically requires extensive use of its administrative interface, as one navigates through its menus, fills out its forms, and reads the admin pages and notifications — or barely skims them, as they have likely been seen by the site builder countless times before. With the aim of avoiding this tedium, speeding up the process, and making it more programmatic, members of the Drupal community created a "shell" program, Drush, which allows one to perform most of these tasks on the command line. At this time, there is only one current print book that covers this tool, Drush for Developers, Second Edition, which is ostensibly an update of its predecessor, Drush User's Guide. Read below for the rest of Michael's review.
Microsoft

Microsoft Considered Giving Away Original Xbox 76

Posted by timothy
from the could've-been-a-cue-cat dept.
donniebaseball23 writes While the term 'Xbox' is firmly implanted in every gamer's mind today, when Microsoft first set out to launch a console in 2001, people weren't sure what to expect and Microsoft clearly wasn't sure what approach to take to the market. As Xbox co-creator Seamus Blackley explained, "In the early days of Xbox, especially before we had figured out how to get greenlit for the project as a pure game console, everybody and their brother who saw the new project starting tried to come in and say it should be free, say it should be forced to run Windows after some period of time." Blackley added that other ideas were pushed around at Microsoft too, like Microsoft should just gobble up Nintendo. "Just name it, name a bad idea and it was something we had to deal with," he said.
Graphics

Developer of 'Banished' Develops His Own Shading Language 31

Posted by timothy
from the copious-free-time dept.
jones_supa writes Luke Hodorowicz, the hard-working developer behind the townbuilding strategy computer game Banished, has
designed a novel GPU shading language and written a compiler for it. The language has been christened 'Shining Rock Shading Language' (SRSL) and it outputs the program in several other shading languages. The first goal for the language was to treat the vertex, fragment and geometry shader as a single program. The language sees the graphics pipeline as a stream of data, followed by some code, which outputs a stream of data, and then more code runs, and another stream of data is output. Body text of the shaders is very C-like and should be understood easily coming from other shading languages. SRSL has all the intrinsic functions you would expect from HLSL or GLSL. All types are HLSL-style. Loops and conditionals are available, but switch statements and global variables are seen redundant and not implemented. Luke's blog post tells more about the details of the language, complemented with examples.
Education

Why America's Obsession With STEM Education Is Dangerous 312

Posted by timothy
from the fallacy-of-the-excluded-middle dept.
HughPickens.com writes According to an op-ed by Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post, if Americans are united in any conviction these days, it is that we urgently need to shift the country's education toward the teaching of specific, technical skills, expand STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math) and deemphasize the humanities. "It is the only way, we are told, to ensure that Americans survive in an age defined by technology and shaped by global competition. The stakes could not be higher." But according to Zakaria the dismissal of broad-based learning, however, comes from a fundamental misreading of the facts — and puts America on a dangerously narrow path for the future.

As Steve Jobs once explained "it's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough — that it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing." Zakaria says that no matter how strong your math and science skills are, you still need to know how to learn, think and even write and cites Jeff Bezos' insistence that writing a memo that makes sense is an even more important skill to master. "Full sentences are harder to write," says Bezos. "They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking." "This doesn't in any way detract from the need for training in technology," concludes Zakaria, "but it does suggest that as we work with computers (which is really the future of all work), the most valuable skills will be the ones that are uniquely human, that computers cannot quite figure out — yet. And for those jobs, and that life, you could not do better than to follow your passion, engage with a breadth of material in both science and the humanities, and perhaps above all, study the human condition."
Earth

Cetaceans Able To Focus Sound For Echolocation 21

Posted by timothy
from the are-you-a-squeaker dept.
Rambo Tribble writes A recent study from Denmark has determined that porpoises, dolphins and whales can focus the sounds they make, described as "clicks and buzzes", when hunting. This appears to exceed even the capabilities of bats. One researcher described the ability as, "like adjusting a flashlight." The BBC offers approachable, and illustrated coverage.
The Internet

EU Commission Divided Over Nation-Specific Content Blocking 51

Posted by timothy
from the for-me-and-not-for-thee dept.
jfruh writes In theory, the European Union is supposed to act as a single national market. But one area in which practice doesn't live up to theory is geoblocking: Europeans may find that a website they can reach or content they have a legal right to stream in one EU country is blocked in another. Now two members of the EU Commission (the equivalent of a nation's cabinet) are feuding as to whether geoblocks should be eliminated: Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said that "deep in my heart ... I hate geoblocking," while Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Günther Oettinger, worrying about protecting the European film industry, said "We must not throw the baby out with the bathwater."